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Yo’ gotta pay-ay-ay

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The 1960s marked the rise in consciousness, anti-colonialist sentiment and nationalism all around the world. It was reflected in the popular music of the times, including in the Caribbean. Some of the exponents of this art became very popular, among them a Barbadian singer who had made his name in Jamaica where reggae was establishing itself as a musical force. His name was Jackie Opel, hugely popular not only in Jamaica and the land of his birth where he was a pioneer of the Bajan “spouge” music, but in the eastern Caribbean as well.

One of his more popular songs was one entitled “Yo gotta pay”, referring to the need for persons to atone or make amends for their deeds and mistakes. This song came to me as I listened day to day about the mounting, skyrocketing may be a more appropriate word, casualties in the region from the coronavirus pandemic. These are not accidental, but are related to our continued refusal to obey the COVID protocols, and instead to disregard sound scientific advice, and bow to all kinds of foolish dictates. The COVID casualties reflect what Jackie Opel sang, we got to pay for our blatant disregard and recklessness.

The numbers strike us daily, reaching frightening proportions in our southern neighbour, Grenada, with whom we share the southern Grenadine islands. In addition to the skyrocketing casualties, even more dreadful is the death toll. Within the space of one month, the situation has been transformed from worrying to one inducing panic. Not just in Grenada mind you, for while we in SVG have not yet reached that stage, the indicators point in that direction.

“Wey causing dat?, we may ask. Look no further than our common actions. In Grenada, Antigua, St. Lucia, SVG too, not only were we not observing the health protocols, we were actively opposing them, protesting against scientific fact on the basis of individual choice taking precedence over collective health and safety.

In Grenada, some went so far as to gang up on the occasion of what would have been Carnival, insisting on their right to play “jab-jab”. When they should have been queuing to take the jab (vaccine) they were defiant and opening the door to a superspreader of the virus. The result is there for us to see, over 4000 cases (2260 active and 2021 recovered as at Sept.21) and more than 75 deaths. We here in SVG had 12 deaths just last month, but five more have died from COVID since.

It has induced some panic reaction in some quarters, with a noticeable uptick in vaccinations. More people are now wearing masks properly, not under the chin or in pockets and handbags as before the fright, but we are still far from getting it right and still too tolerant of ignorance which is proving to be dangerous, and even fatal.

There is more to it than health though, for the damage to the economy is substantial. At a time when government expenditure has increased significantly, given COVID and the volcanic eruption, the reduction in economic activity is a real threat. The government would be inclined not to frighten us and induce panic, but we cannot expect to be forever demanding when the funds are not flowing freely.

It is all the more reason why the vaccine, as the most potent and trusted weapon, must be employed. Yet there are those who spread all kinds of negative propaganda about the dangers of the vaccine. More than 6 billion, that is 6000 million doses of the vaccine have been administered to date, with more than 28 million jabs administered EACH DAY.

The unholy alliance of those who call themselves “anti-vaxxers”, that is against vaccines for one reason or another, backward religious zealots as a few we have here in SVG, political opportunists, and those blinded either by vanity or obsession to oppose “Ralph”, are only succeeding in doing damage to our beloved country, its people and above all our children and their future. In response we can take heed from Luta’s call for us to “Leggo dem ting”- the anti- vaxxing, the propagandising, the needless protesting, and the disobeying (of the health protocols).

Instead it is time for up to roll up our sleeves and take the vaxxing, fully subscribe to masking, keep the safe distancing and daily keep updating and educating. We need to take out the crank handle and get the truck back on the road, speeding up what is called “herd immunity” (without the ‘horse tonic’) and making our country safe.

The initiative of sectors like tourism, in holding consultations among members, as well as the Christian community, needs to be replicated in other sectors, especially the labour movement. We have a responsibility to our children and their future. It is almost two years now that they have been suffering, their education proceeding in stop-starts. It is unfair to them for us to do nothing about the virus, claiming our “individual choice” while compromising their future. We simply cannot pay that price.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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